Friday, August 31, 2007

Romania says hopes to sign Ford deal next week

BUCHAREST, Aug 31 (Reuters) - Romania hopes to finalise a deal to sell its troubled carmaker Automobile Craiova SA (AUCSxm.BRQ: Quote, Profile, Research) to Ford Motor Co (F.N: Quote, Profile, Research) next week, a member of the privatisation commission said on Friday.

Last month, Ford submitted the sole bid in a tender for a 72.4 percent stake in a sale which the Romanian centrist government has said it hopes to wrap up by Sept. 1.

"We estimate the deal will be done by the middle of next week," Teodor Atanasiu, who is also the head of state privatisation agency AVAS, told Reuters.

The official, who did not say how much Romania hopes to raise from the deal, said Ford's offer would be opened early next week.

"We have not been able to reach an agreement on all of the contract's aspects," Atanasiu explained the delay without elaborating.

Ford has said it plans to invest 675 million euros ($931 million in the Craiova-based plant. It intends to raise employment levels to 7,000, and potentially up to 9,000, from 3,900 at present, and plans to reach output of 300,000 units a year.

Many auto-part makers have set up in the new European Union member country, attracted by the rising output of Renault's (RENA.PA: Quote, Profile, Research) Dacia plant, cheap labour and favourable tax rates.

Continental hires 1,500 in Romania

Source: evertiq

The Romanian subsidiary of German based automotive maker Continental group, plans to hire 1500 new employees until the end of 2008.

"The Romanian divisions of Continental AG are expanding. Which is why around 500 staff will be hired for our plants in Timisoara, Sibiu, Carei and Arad," Ildiko Kovacs, PR coordinator of Continental Romania, told Ziarul Financiar.

Continental will reach 5,000 employees on the Romanian market until the end of 2008. Automotive components and accessory makers are among the largest private employers in Romania, with over 50,000 employees.

FORGED MONEY DEALERS FROM BULGARIA DETAINED IN ROMANIA AND HUNGARY

Sofia Echo

A Bulgarian citizen, a dealer of forged money, was arrested in Romania during a joint operation of Bulgarian and Romanian police. The Bulgarian was detained while handing over 5000 euro in forged bills to two Romanians, Romanian newspaper Gandul reported.

The three are under arrest in Bulgaria and investigation has been launched. Prosecutors, border policemen and special services representatives took part in the police operation. Russian m3m.ru reported that the Hungarian bureau for investigation arrested a criminal group,distributing fake euro of in denominations of 200. The group was led by a 52-year-old Bulgarian citizen and included other Bulgarians, as well as Hungarians and Ukrainians. The fake money was probably produced in Bulgaria, m3m.ru said.

Atlas Estates says Voluntari land in Romania gets substantial valuation lift

LONDON (Thomson Financial) - Atlas Estates Ltd said it has received an updated valuation for its 100 pct holding in the Volantari land in Romania, which comprises of three plots of land, with a total surface area of 99,116 square metres.

The property investment company said Voluntari land is now valued at 29.7 mln eur, representing around 300 eur per square metre of land, compared to the previous valuation of around 90 eur per square metre.

Amos Pickel, CEO of Atlas Management Company Ltd said, 'This valuation confirms the quality of this land, the rejuvenation of the area in which it is located and the massive growth of the Romanian market.'

Atlas bought 60 pct of the land in June 2006 for 90 eur per square metre, and in July 2007 bought the rest for approximately 216 eur per square metre.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Transgaz Shares to Start Trading in March After Initial Sale

By Adam Brown

Aug. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Transgaz SA, Romania's state-owed natural gas distributor, could start trading on the Bucharest Stock Exchange in March after an initial share sale late this year, Finance Minister Varujan Vosganian said.

The government will start taking bids for shares in November and end the sale in December, Vosganian said. He didn't say how large a stake in Transgaz the government plans to sell.

``We have information that the sale will be oversubscribed and a success,'' Vosganian said in comments broadcast today on Romania's Money Channel television. ``By February or March, we will have another important company in the energy field traded on capital markets.''

The initial share sale of Transgaz, which operates almost 12,000 kilometers (7,500 miles) of pipelines, would be the first in Romania this year. The government sold a 10 percent stake in Transelectrica SA, the power transmission grid operator, in June 2006, raising about 123 million lei ($52 million).

The state owns 85 percent of Transgaz, which is a partner with Austria's OMV AG and other companies in the Nabucco gas pipeline planned to run from Turkey to Austria. The other 15 percent is owned by the Fondul Proprietatea, a fund created to compensate citizens for property confiscated under communist rule.

To contact the reporters on this story: Adam Brown in Bucharest at abrown23@bloomberg.net

Ukraine to settle disputes with Romania in line with economic interests- ministers

Aug 29 (Interfax) - Ukraine will defend its economic interests in its relations with Romania, primarily the issue of sovereignty over Zmeinoye island and the Bystroye channels in the Danube delta, Foreign Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said.

He told the press in Odesa on Wednesday that Ukraine is looking forward to the ruling of the international court with regard to Zmeiny, which is expected in 12-18 months.

As for Bystroye, there is no a single confirmed instance of Ukraine violating the provisions of the international convention on environmental protection, he said. Several Ukrainian experts have registered the violation of these provisions by neighboring countries, he said.

Yatseniyk said the Foreign Ministry expects Romania to produce evidence of Ukraine's violation of environmental laws. Zmeiny is an island in the Black Sea 30 kilometers off Odesa region. It became part of Ukraine under the 1947 Paris agreement. When the Soviet Union collapsed it became a subject of a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Romania. In 1997 the two countries signed a framework agreement confirming the inviolability of the frontiers that existed in 1961.

Securitate files on Orthodox clerics were burned to keep their names secret

2007-08-28

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) - Files kept by Romania's communist-era secret police on a dozen Orthodox clerics were burned during the 1989 revolution to prevent their names from being disclosed, said a member of the state council studying the Securitate archives.

The council member, poet Mircea Dinescu, also officially confirmed Tuesday that a senior bishop who previously acknowledged collaborating with the feared secret police did in fact do so. The council is reviewing a list of 20 senior Orthodox clerics, among whom a few almost certainly collaborated with the Securitate, he said. Sixteen of them are suspected of having been informers, he said.

Some of the clerics he was referring to, he said, were potential candidates to lead Romania's influential Orthodox Church. The election of a replacement for Patriarch Teoctist, who died July 30, is to be held Sept. 12.

«Their files were burned in December 1989 so that their names could be covered up,» Dinescu said. «The church has the opportunity to eliminate suspicion that its high-level clerics collaborated with the Securitate,» he said.

Teoctist was opposed to the files being opened, arguing it was an internal church matter. Since his death there have been calls for the names of priests who collaborated to be made public.
The council confirmed Tuesday that Metropolitan Bishop of Banat Nicolae Corneanu and academician and member of the Orthodox Church Electoral Board Constantin Balaceanu Stolnici had been collaborators.

The Securitate is believed to have had at least 700,000 informers when communism was overthrown in December 1989. Church officials reacted defensively to the disclosure. Orthodox Church spokesman Costel Stoica noted that Corneanu's collaboration was already public knowledge. «I think he was one of the first Romanians to admit what he did. This is not new,» he said.

Corneanu, who is the Metropolitan for Timisoara, said he collaborated from 1960, when he was bishop of Arad, until the revolution. Stolnici admitted earlier this year in a newspaper interview that he had been a Securitate informer. The church spokesman said Stolnici would be allowed to remain a member of the electoral council that will choose the next patriarch. He accused Dinescu of libel, adding that the church was «praying for him. More than 80 percent of Romanians are Orthodox believers.

Movie review: ‘The Death of Mr. Lazarescu'

August 27, 2007

4 stars (out of four)

It takes a while to adjust to its rhythm, but the Romanian film "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu" is a rich, strange and weirdly gratifying odyssey. Characterize the film any of three ways and its qualities sound unresolvable. It is a black comedy, among the blackest. It is also more grueling in some stretches than anything in "United 93."

It serves as a deadpan rebuke to "ER," the internationally popular TV series described by the director and co-writer of "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu" this way: "… there's movement in every direction, the choreography of the characters is amazing--but I can't believe in any of it." Yet Cristi Puiu's second feature does far more than knock the wheels off the "ER" gurney.

Framed by a dispassionate camera eye akin to both Eric Rohmer's and Jim Jarmusch's--Puiu has acknowledged both filmmakers as influences--the film features at its center a dying Bucharest pensioner and an ambulance paramedic. They meet and embark on a descent into the health-care underworld that starts out ordinary, even drab, and ends up mythic. As he enters one ring of administrative hell after another (not for nothing is the man's first name "Dante") Lazarescu is accompanied by Mioara, the medic, a modern-day Ro manian version of Charon, who ran the ferry crossing the River Styx. The actors who play Lazarescu and his angel of mercy, Ion Fiscuteanu and Luminita Gheorghiu, pull off the sort of alchemic performance miracle that can only come from age, experience and invisible technique. Not for a second do you catch these two acting.

Lazarescu is a 62-year-old widower with three cats, a headache, stomach pains and a history of heavy drinking. In his apartment the widower argues over the phone with his sister about finances. "I drink at my own expense!" he asserts. The pain grows worse. He calls the ambulance. His neighbors across the hall warn against any optimism on this point: Securing an ambulance on a Saturday night in this city--in many cities, for many people--is not easy.

A bus accident has stretched the capabilities of the Bucharest hospitals. The doctors have neither much time nor much interest in the plight of a man who has liquor on his breath and whose faculties are fading fast. Each new encounter with an indifferent, exhausted, status-conscious or coolly skeptical nurse or doctor becomes a one-act power play. Yet Mio ara, the dying man's unsentimental protector, has common sense and a weary sort of grace on her side.

In the past screenwriters Puiu and Razvan Radulescu, along with the actor playing Lazarescu, have worked with the marvelous Ro manian film and stage director Lucian Pintilie, responsible for some of the most spectacular productions ever seen in America. "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu" is inconceivable as anything other than a film, but each scene operates with a sly, subtle brand of theatricality and stage management. The film unfolds as a series of interior scenes set in an apartment, a hallway, an emergency room. In each new waiting room a series of characters come and go; sometimes the film spends time with one or two of them. Other times it develops an interest in someone unexpected.

"Every time you cut," Puiu has said, "you turn the camera or your eye towards one situation, you turn your back on another." The director transforms the eternal storytelling frustration--so many choices!--into a virtue. "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu" may be too little, or too much, or too filled with mounting indignities for some tastes. Others, I hope, will make the rhythm adjustment required. In the tale of one man's final hours, "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu," which has a mordant wit all its own, sees human tragedy all mixed up with the human comedy. Why separate the two after all?

mjphillips@tribune.com

U.S. tests joint military bases in Romania

By Justyna Pawlak

MIHAIL KOGALNICEANU AIR BASE, Romania (Reuters) - The United States and Romania have started military training exercises to test installations that will become the first U.S. facilities in the former Soviet bloc, a plan opposed by Russia.

The new bases, located in Romania and Bulgaria, are part of a shift in Pentagon's focus from large Cold War-era facilities in western Europe towards smaller installations closer to hot spots such as the Middle East.

Romania and its smaller southern neighbor Bulgaria have been NATO members since 2004 and are staunch allies of Washington, with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"It is important we continue to develop and mature our military to military relationships," David D. McKiernan, Commanding General, United States Army in Europe, told reporters.

"We should train in a coalition environment." The training exercises started on August 17 and will end in October.

The U.S. signed the deal with Romania to open the bases in December 2005 and has already used the Black Sea facilities to shift equipment and personnel at the start of the Iraqi war in 2003.

Its link-up with Romania has drawn criticism from Moscow and added to tensions between Washington and Russia over the proposed U.S. missile shield in eastern Europe.

"It will be a Romanian facility, not a U.S. facility ... We are guests, tenants," McKiernan said. Regular training rotations in Romania are due to start next year, and possibly this year in Bulgaria.

"It's a pre-rotation to test how this works. How we can make improvements when we come back next year," said Troy Darr, an army spokesman.

Romania hopes millions of dollars in U.S. investment will help revitalize the region along the Black Sea.

Like many regions in the new European Union member, the area suffers widespread poverty and struggles to attract foreign cash, largely due to its dilapidated communist-era infrastructure.

"We hope the base will bring commerce," said Claudia Albu, a 33-year-old shopkeeper in the nearby town of Mihail Kogalniceanu.

"The girls in town are learning English. And we already have a few mixed-race babies here from the last time the Americans were here."

Romania's Top Appliances Retailer Renews Interest in Bulgaria

Sofia News Agency

Romania's top retailer of household appliances, Altex, has renewed its interest in the Bulgarian market and plans to open its first store in the country next year, company CEO Dan Ostahie said.

Altex, which has a market share of 26% in Romania and targets sales of EUR 300 M this year, shelved its plans to expand to Bulgaria in 2005 on the back of underwhelming financial results.

"We will follow up with our plan to expand to Bulgaria in 2008. We want to open our first store next year, and we plan to finance it from our own cash flow," Ostahie was quoted as saying by Romanian business daily Ziarul Financiar.

With 90 stores in two chains, Altex and Media Galaxy, throughout the country, the company is the biggest retailer owned by domestic capital in Romania.

One of its main competitors, Flamingo, had opened two stores in Bulgarian capital Sofia in 2005 as part of plans to expand throughout the region.

But bad results at home forced the company to give up on its plans and it sold the Sofia stores last year.

The Symbols of Bulgaria and Romania

Source: news.bg

Which are the typical symbols which become the trade mark of a country? The European Commission expects the suggestions of the two newest EU-member states Bulgaria and Romania.

How the country to be popularized in Europe and world-wide?

Which are those colours, signs, images and products, which can give the most adequate idea of the place, the nature, the people and their cultural heritage? In what way the image which carries the most typical national characteristics corresponds to the idea of the others?

The answers to these questions are crucial for the preparation of a modern and effective visit card of each country which to help its imagine worldwide.

The European commission gives every country the opportunity suggest names of traditional national products, which to be included in the EU list of “trade marks for origin” and for “names from protected geographic regions”.

The list so far includes around 800 products from the 27 EU member states.

It will take around two years from the moment the suggestions of Bulgaria and Romania are submitted till their included in the list.

This occasion gives the opportunity for an interesting experiment to be made, which to help the country elaborate is image strategy by using the field of perceptions and associations and comparing the image the local population has about itself and the way the foreigners see the country.

Organizer of the campaign for image choosing is Bulgarian association for business and tourist information.

Third European Ecumenical Assembly to be held in Romania in the early September

Moscow, August 30, Interfax - The Third European Ecumenical Assembly on the theme ‘The light of Christi shines upon all - Hope for renewal and unity in Europe’ will be held in Sibiu, Romania, on September 4 to 9.

‘We would like this assembly to answer many questions that challenge Christians in today’s Europe,’ the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate secretary for inter-Christian relations Fr. Igor Vyzhanov told Interfax on Thursday.

According to him, there will be 2,500 people attending the event.

The assembly should become ‘a place not only for saying splendid but useless words, but rather for elaborating a common strategy for Christians facing common challenges,’ Vyzhanov said.

He called the Sibiu 2007 ‘an Orthodox stage’ of the inter-Christian dialogue since Romanian people are mostly Orthodox.

The priest noted that there have already been meetings in Rome in January 2006 (‘a Catholic stage’) and in Wittenberg in February 2007 (‘a Protestant stage’).

Another important phase, he said, was a meeting of European, CIS, and Baltic church leaders in the late February 2007 in Moscow.

This meeting revealed that ‘most Christian bodies of the former Soviet Union adhere to traditional values and healthy conservatism,’ he said.

The Third European Ecumenical Assembly is organized jointly by the Conference of the European Churches that unites mostly Orthodox and Protestant Christians, and the Roman Catholic Council of European Bishops’ Conferences.

So the assembly will embrace all European Christian denominations. ‘The meeting will be very representative and I wish our voice be heard in Europe,’ the priest said.

Romania buys old cars to fight pollution

Romania's government bought 14,451 old cars this year as part of „Operation Jalopy,” a program to encourage citizens to buy new cars that emit fewer fumes and are better for the environment.

The government plans to buy 2,000 cars made before 1995 by the end of this year to decrease the average age of vehicles on the road and fight pollution, the Romanian Environment Ministry said in a statement on its Web site today. Under the plan, the government gives 3,000 lei ($1,250) each to drivers who hand over cars older than 12 years.

The clunker is broken down for scrap metal and the owner must use the money toward a new vehicle with higher emission standards. The government has handed out about 34 million lei in „Operation Jalopy” this year. New cars bought under the program accounted for almost 10% of total new car sales of 146,000 in the H1 of the year. The average age of cars on the road in Romania is 13 years, the oldest in Europe, the Environment Ministry said.

Romania is working to meet higher pollution standards since it joined the EU this year. Cars in the country are often passed from parent to child and kept running for decades. Oldest models were made by Dacia SA before the company was sold to Renault SA, France's second-biggest carmaker. Old Dacia cars were “replicas” of those times’ Renaults. Many of these old Dacias are still running in eastern European countries, like former Siviet countries, Ukraine, Russia, south-east Europe, Hungary, former Yugoslav countries. (Bg)

LARGEST ROMANIA’S ELECTRONIC COMPANY ENTERS BULGARIA

Sofia Echo
Thu 30 Aug 2007

The Romanian electronics producer Altex, which is considered the largest one in the country, plans to enter the Bulgarian market in 2008.

The company started working on its expansion in the Bulgarian market in 2005, but temporarily froze its plans due to problems with its performance in Romania, Romanian newspaper Ziarul Financiar reported as quoted by investor.bg.

Currently, the company is working on an investment project worth 20 million euro. As a result of this, its total area of trade sites in Romania will reach 100 000 sq m.

Altex has 90 stores in Romania's largest cities. In Bucharest alone there are ten stores. The company previously announced its plans to enter the Serbian market as well.

Another Romanian company that focuses on furniture sales, Mobexpert, already operates in Bulgarian territory. The company announced in June 2007 that it was going to invest six million euro in a new store in Sofia’s residential district of Lyulin.

Keeping Romania impoverished

Keeping Romania impoverished
By Paul Driessen
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Townhall.com

For decades, Nazi and Communist regimes ruled Romania, kept her people impoverished and exploited her resources – tearing vast mineral wealth from her mountains, with little regard for worker safety, people’s health or the environment. When the Soviet Empire collapsed, Romania eagerly embraced a more hopeful future and embarked on a course to join the European Union.

Life has improved for many, especially in cities like Bucharest. But Romania remains one of the EU’s poorest nations, and valleys that once echoed with the shouts of workers and roar of heavy equipment are now silent. Over 300,000 miners are jobless. Their villages have descended into squalor, misery and despondency that have no historic parallel.

Rosia Montana is one such place. This Transylvanian town hosts a massive open-pit mine, enormous waste dumps and, beneath them, hundreds of tunnels. The legacy of 2000 years of mining – the most damaging of which occurred under Ceaucescu – they leach toxic chemicals into local streams that now are red-orange from cadmium and contain 110 times the EU’s legal limit of zinc, 64 times its iron limit, and three times the limit for arsenic, the most dangerous chemical on the US government’s toxic substances list.

Homes and buildings are crumbling, two-thirds of them lack indoor toilets and running water, and 70% of the workers are unemployed. Families survive on wild berries, subsistence farming in rocky, acidic soil, welfare, and often less than US$2 a day. Few own a car. Frigid winters are warmed only by wood stoves. Malnutrition and ill health are constant problems. The dentist serves as the area’s only doctor.

Unlike most former mining towns, however, Rosia has one last chance. Gabriel Resources wants to reopen the mine, to tease out nearly 2,000 tons of gold and silver that the antiquated methods of bygone eras could not extract.

In the process, the Canadian company would spend millions to erase the horrific environmental legacy, restore the land to forests, pastures and grasslands, and leave the alpine waters sparkling. All at no cost to the Romanian government, which cannot afford to clean up the mess itself.

Gabriel would also create high-paying jobs, revitalize the community, protect and restore Rosia’s most valuable churches and buildings in a special historic zone, build a modern village with homes in traditional Romanian styles, save Roman and other archeological treasures in a museum – and provide precious metals for jewelry, computers and other marvels. (The company has already spent over US$200 million; its US$10-million expenditure thus far on archeology is 40 times the Romanian Culture Ministry’s annual budget between 1990 and 2003.)

Over a 29-year period, the project would create 1,200 construction jobs, more than 600 mining jobs, and 6,000 indirect jobs in service sectors. It would inject US$2.5 billion into the local and Romanian economy, and leave Rosia Montana with a modern infrastructure: roads, electricity, internet, safe running water, a new school and clinic, and dozens of new businesses that will sustain a strong economy long after the mine is gone. Of course, other ore bodies might be discovered, prolonging the area’s mining economy for decades.

The museum, clean environment, and new hotels and restaurants will attract tourists who have never before had a reason to visit this cold, polluted, inhospitable region.

No wonder the mayor strongly supports the new mine and was re-elected with over 80% of the vote. If the project moves forward, miracles will happen. If it dies, the land and water will remain polluted, because Romania cannot afford to clean it up. More young people will leave, the elderly will be abandoned, and investors will think twice about coming to Romania.

But none of this matters to the international anti-mining movement. Almost the moment the plan was announced, foreign NGOs (non-governmental organizations) launched a local opposition group (Alburnus Maior) and well-financed campaign to stop the project – using techniques they had refined in countless actions across North and South America, Asia and Africa.

The region is idyllic, they say – perfect for farming and tourism. The people love their quaint homes and prefer horse-drawn carts over automobiles. Gabriel would uproot families, destroy Rosia’s churches and landmarks, and pollute the pristine environment. The people don’t want these temporary jobs. They’d rather pick mushrooms and carve wood figurines.

These and other absurd lies are chronicled in the documentary film "Mine Your Own Business." Residents can hardly imagine anyone would believe them. But websites, awards from celebrities and like-minded pressure groups, and a constant flow of spurious allegations have generated opposition all over Europe. A recent PBS television pseudo-documentary (funded by Greenpeace) is carrying their anti-mining battle to US audiences.

The latest fabrication attacks the proposed use of cyanide to recover the precious metals. The NGOs claim the method is dangerous and used only in destitute Third World countries. They have persuaded Romanian legislators to introduce laws banning the chemical – and thus scuttling the project and future mining prospects.

Actually, cyanide is produced by bacteria and fungi, and found in almonds, coffee and other foods. Over 400 modern mines in the US, EU, Canada, Australia and many other nations use it to extract gold and silver. Because it degrades quickly and naturally, and does not involve acids or heavy metals, it is safer for workers and the environment than alternative methods. Indeed, it is far less toxic than automobile exhaust or the arsenic and other chemicals that now foul Rosia Montana’s water.

Gabriel Resources – the only EU-licensed company to sign the International Cyanide Management Code – plans to use it in a state-of-the-art system that will safely recycle the chemical repeatedly and send nearly cyanide-free water into a lined waste facility. The system is designed so that even major storms will not release dangerous chemicals into the environment – a huge difference from the risky, antiquated system that caused the Baia Mare overflow.

The radical NGOs simply hate mining, don’t live in the village, have no compassion for these families, and are under no legal obligation to be honest, transparent or accountable for the consequences of their actions. As one foreign activist said in an email:

"Why should any NGO come forward with alternative projects? That is not the job of civil society. We are not a humanitarian organization, but a militant environmental NGO. If the whole community is in favor of the project, we simply put it on the list of our enemies."

They will spend millions to stop development, but not one cent on poor people or the environment. They destroy thousands of jobs, but create no new ones. When someone asked the Alburnus Maior president where his money comes from, he said "It’s not your business!"

George Soros and his Soros Foundation Romania appear to be the principal money behind this campaign. Not only is this support anti-poor, anti-environment and anti-Romania. It's also hypocritical, because Soros has made millions from mining operations that use cyanide – and a silver mine that relocated an entire village. But stopping Gabriel and other Western corporations could certainly benefit his political agenda and provide opportunities to profit from fluctuations in metals prices caused by restrictions on mining in the face of surging demand to meet the needs of new technologies and developing economies.

It also promotes Hungary's desire to assert influence over lands that once were part of its empire, or at least prevent those regions from becoming economic competitors. That desire may explain why its government issued a press release condemning the project, almost immediately after it had submitted 122 questions about the project, but before it had received a single answer.

Twenty-one Romanian NGOs visited Rosia Montana and met with the people and company. Eighteen of them changed their minds and now support the project. The radical activists refuse to have any dialogue.

Draped in gold, actress Vanessa Redgrave used a Cluj-Napoca film festival to proclaim her opposition to the mine. When the people of Rosia Montana wrote her a letter – asking "Where will be go? How will we live?" – she responded with stony, callous silence.

Wealthy San Francisco insurance magnate Richard Goldman gave Swiss-British Stephanie Roth US$125,000 for leading the project's opposition. He has also given nearly US$1-million to radical anti-insecticide groups that help perpetuate malaria, misery and childhood death in Africa.

But what possible reason can the Royal Society, Catholic Church, news media and Royal Family of Romania have for opposing this project? Why do they want to ensure that thousands of their own people remain unemployed, living in squalid homes and sentenced to suffer in one of Romania’s most polluted areas? Why do they want to give George Soros and Hungary veto power over Romania’s mining industry and thousands of jobs and families?

Would Princess Margareta or any of the journalists, Church leaders or Society elites want to live even one winter in this "paradise" they want to "save"? Do they hate mining with enough passion to give up its benefits: their fine homes, jewelry, computers, cars and jet travel – none of which are possible without mining? Will Redgrave, Roth, Soros, Goldman and other project opponents do likewise? Will the anti-cyanide legislators?

Rather than aligning with the foreign militants, Romanian legislators, journalists, celebrities and citizens should visit the village, strip mines, streams and waste heaps, and speak with the people of Rosia Montana and Gabriel Resources. If there is a need for legislation, it is for laws that compel anti-development NGOs – and those that bankroll them – to abide by basic rules for honesty, transparency and accountability that every decent organization should be happy to follow.

Most important, they should let the people of Rosia Montana decide their own future – without lies and pressure from foreign activists. If that future includes this mining project, it will give Rosia and the entire nation an opportunity to rehabilitate this ecological disaster, preserve the best of their cultural heritage, and become healthy, modern and prosperous. Together, these actions would help ensure that a half-century of oppression by totalitarians is not followed by oppression at the hands of unaccountable eco-imperialists.

Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Congress of Racial Equality and Atlas Economic Research Foundation, and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green Power - Black Death. CORE will host a November 29 program at the United Nations on how climate change programs and policies might affect industrialization, families and communities in developing nations.

Romania: TVR considers internal selection for 2008

Source: esctoday.com

The Romanian national selection is about to change after the scandals, the problems and the accusations of plagiarism that took place the previous years. According to the Romanian national television, they are already thinking to follow in the steps of other countries , such as Greece with Helena Paparizou in 2005. Specifically, TVR consider selecting the artist internally and then having the song chosen by televoting in a national final.

Dan Manoliu, the coordinator of the national selection for the Eurovision Song Contest has confirmed that they already working on this idea. He didn’t mention all the details but he specified that everything is going to be according to the EBU regulations.We don’t want the same thing to happen again that’s why we decided to change the format, but it is not final yet.” declared Dan Manoliu.

Adrian Romcescu, composer of the song Eu cred (Marina Olinescu-Romania 1998) and of the hit Ramai cu mine with Andra that won the first prize at the Mamaia festival 2005, considers that the new format has advantages and disadvantages.First of all it seems a little undemocratic, because if you choose one artist you exclude this way other singers with great voices. On the other hand, it is very good to bet on a singer that has great voice and experience. TVR don’t want to risk any more.” explained Adrian considering though that there will also be scandals this year.

Local media report that Andra, who tried her hand last year with Simplu, is a hot favourite to represent Romania in Belgrade. Mihai Alexandru, father and manager of the Romanian pop singer Andra, declared that he had no idea of the new regulations.
It is good and bad at the same time. If they choose Andra next year there will also be other good artists for upcoming editions. Every composer will give his best and the songs will all be excellent. I also work this way myself. When Andra prepares her album, we work with several composers simultaneously ”, declared Mihai.

Other composers and jury members of previous national finals have also reacted positivelt to the new format, so it remains to be seen which way TVR will finally choose to go.

IHT: U.S. and Romania begin 3-month joint training exercise

MIHAIL KOGALNICEANU AIR BASE, Romania: A significant step toward the first long-term U.S. military presence on territory of the former Communist bloc was taken as American and Romanian forces began three months of joint training exercises.

American and Romanian forces began three months of joint training exercises Monday at this Black Sea air base, a significant step toward the first long-term U.S. military presence on territory of the former Communist bloc.

The exercises involve 700 American and Romanian military personnel and several hundred support staff members, focusing on light infantry training.

The main purpose of the operation is to test joint command and operations capacities of a new task force.

"It's a whole new philosophy in the way we train expeditionary army units with our coalition allies," said Colonel Lew Boone, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Command in Europe.

While American military planners see the moves as the first step in a global shift of U.S. military might away from enormous Cold War-era bases toward smaller, more mobile and multinational facilities farther to the east, President Vladimir Putin of Russia has assailed the Romania base as a global threat that could increase tensions in the region.

Putin cited the new facility as part of Russia's decision last month to suspend membership in one of the most important defense agreements in Europe, the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty. Other factors included a similar facility in Bulgaria, where training exercises are scheduled to start in September, and the planned U.S. missile defense system to be based in Poland and the Czech Republic.

The Romanian-U.S. relationship was formalized in a 10-year agreement signed by the United States and Romania in December 2005. The agreement allows the Americans to use the air base, a training area and other training ranges and firing areas. The U.S. forces will not exceed brigade-sized units of about 3,500 soldiers.

The U.S. military stressed that the facilities would not be American bases. Instead, they will remain under Romanian command and all facilities will be shared with Romanian military personnel.

Acknowledging that the U.S. military "has been taken to task for their inability to build coalitions" in Afghanistan and Iraq, Boone said, "What you are witnessing here is the way the U.S. Army will train to fight in the future."

"We think it's historic," Boone said.

Russian pressure has created a whole agenda of concerns about the bases, said

Cornel Codita, a military and international affairs analyst based in Bucharest and a retired Romanian army general, said that there were no expectations of an aggressive Russian response in the short term, because any action would be treated as one against the European Union as a whole. Romania joined the EU on Jan. 1.

Codita said he expected countermeasures from Russia, including increased intelligence gathering and possibly the creation of capabilities on Russian territory capable of striking the new facilities.

"It is now only political pressure and not very heavy, but it is being felt by military and foreign policy makers in Romania," Codita said.

Boone said the U.S. military did not see the bases as a threat. "The Russians are doing the same things we are doing, trying to create relationships and engagements," he said.

Romania is one the most steadfast U.S. allies in Europe, and the two countries have held joint training exercises since 1994. Past exercises have been conducted under separate commands and usually lasted usually one or two weeks, compared with the three months of the one just begun.

Regulators probe surge in Rompetrol shares before sale announcement

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) - Romanian securities regulators said they are investigating a surge in Rompetrol Rafinare SA shares less than an hour before an announcement by the stock exchange that the refiner's parent company had a new majority owner.

Rompetrol shares rose by 14.3 per cent, just under the maximum allowed for one day, before investors informed the exchange that 75 per cent of Rompetrol Group had been bought by Kazakhstan state company KazMunaiGaz.

The deal, signed Friday in the Kazakh city of Almaty, will double the Kazakh company's refinery capacity and give it 630 gas stations in seven countries including Romania, Georgia, Bulgaria, Spain, Moldova and France - boosting its presence within the EU.

Rompetrol did not give a sale figure, but the oil company - Romania's second largest and a major regional energy player - is worth US$3.6 billion - suggesting the price of the deal was around $2.7 billion.

"The shares rose in an extremely short time, only 20 minutes, to the level in which trading is automatically suspended," the National Securities Commission said in a statement late Tuesday. The commission "has been asked by capital markets and the stock exchange to analyze and identify if the law was disregarded."

Rompetrol has insisted that complied with regulations and notified the Bucharest stock exchange and the securities regulators. In a statement it said that it had notified authorities at 12 p.m., before the share price rose.

The Bucharest stock exchange said Wednesday that it had not received notification of the change in company ownership before it occurred.

AIG subsidiary obtains license to operate as private pension fund in Romania

Insurance Business Review Online
28th August 2007 By Julia Chan

AIG Fond de Pensii, the Romanian subsidiary of American Life Insurance Company, which is also part of US insurance giant American International Group, has been granted a license from the Romanian Commission for the Supervision of the Private Pension System to operate as a private pension fund administrator, managing the private pension contributions of eligible workers in Romania's new mandatory private pension system.

American Life Insurance Company (ALICO) president and COO, Joyce Phillips, said: "We are pleased that the Romanian commission authorized AIG Fond de Pensii as one of the mandatory private pension administrators. We will begin enrolling pension contributors on September 17, 2007, the official starting date for the mandatory pension system. Experienced in markets throughout the world, ALICO is well positioned to contribute positively to economic growth and development in Romania and support the fulfillment of employees' retirement savings needs."

ALICO has been providing life insurance products in Romania for almost 10 years, while AIG Romania Insurance Company, American International Group's (AIG's) property-casualty insurance company, has provided general insurance services to Romanian consumers since 1994. AIG operates in more than 130 countries and jurisdictions, while ALICO conducts business globally in Japan, Europe, the Middle East, South Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean, in more than 55 countries.

Romania watchdog probes Rompetrol bourse deals

BUCHAREST, Aug 29 (Reuters) - Romania's capital market watchdog has launched a probe into the share deals of three Bucharest-listed companies owned by Rompetrol Group NV, struck on the day it announced it sold a majority stake.

Shares of blue chip issuer Rompetrol Rafinare , the group's flagship asset, lost some steam on Wednesday following the news but still traded at life highs, after gaining just under 30 percent in the first two days of the week.

Rompetrol Group NV, Romania's second largest oil firm, said on Monday it had sold a 75 percent stake to Kazakhstan's state-owned firm KazMunayGaz for an undisclosed amount. Auditors valued the group at $3.6 billion.

The news bolstered Rompetrol Rafinare shares, but also sent those of smaller Rompetrol Well Services and Rompetrol SA to record highs.

The securities commission said the probe, which also extends to the Friday transactions by the three companies, was launched on Monday after shares prices soared quickly, on suspicion that the sale announcement may have been improperly handled.

"First conclusions should be discussed ... later this week or early the next," a commission spokeswoman said. Rompetrol has denied the allegations, and said it informed the bourse of its actions through a public relations agency.

By 1010 GMT on Wednesday, Rompetrol Rafinare shares traded at 0.1360 lei, lower than a life high of 0.1470 hit earlier in the session but still the highest level since their 2004 listing. Shares were up 6.25 percent on the day.

Rompetrol Well Services was down 10.55 percent on the day, after Tuesday's 2.18 lei close. Rompetrol SA was traded 16.7 percent lower on the day after hitting a life high of 0.3120 on Tuesday.

"There is some unrest in the market related to the probe," said Alexandru Cristescu, a trader with Intervam in Bucharest.

The group's CEO, Dinu Patriciu, who retains a 20 percent stake indirectly, was charged last year with embezzlement, money laundering and stock market manipulation, related to various deals, including a 2004 stock sale and a debt deal done by Petromidia refinery.

He has repeatedly denied the charges and said the investigation was politically motivated.

EMERGING MARKETS REPORT: Kazakh Oil Firm Buys 75% Of Romania's Rompetrol

By Polya Lesova

NEW YORK (Dow Jones) -- In a bid to expand its presence in Europe, Kazakhstan's state-controlled oil and gas company KazMunayGas has agreed to buy a 75% equity stake in oil firm Rompetrol Group N.V. in an acquisition estimated to be worth $2.7 billion.

The key asset of Netherlands-based Rompetrol Group N.V. is refiner Rompetrol Rafinare SA in Romania, whose shares surged 14% on the Bucharest Stock Exchange Tuesday.

In a joint statement Monday, KazMunayGasand Rompetrol said that the enterprise value of the Romanian oil company was $3.6 billion, which would make a 75% stake worth $2.7 billion.

The deal comes amid rising concerns in Western Europe about the reliability of Russia as an energy supplier. Kazakhstan, which has the Caspian Sea region's largest recoverable crude-oil reserves, might prove to be an important alternative to Russian supplies for European markets.

The acquisition "provides us with a footprint in important downstream markets in Europe, including France, Romania, Moldova and Bulgaria, as well as the ability to utilize Rompetrol as a platform for future expansion," said Uzakbay Karabalin, president of KazMunayGas, in a statement.

"The company will focus its activities in the high-growth markets of the Black Sea, Balkans and Mediterranean regions," Karabalin said. "It effectively builds an energy bridge between the oil resources of Kazakhstan and the growing demand for refined products in Central, Eastern and Western Europe."

The deal effectively doubles KazMunayGas' refining capacity by giving it access to two of Rompetrol's refineries in Romania and significantly increases its retail infrastructure in European markets by acquiring access to 630 gas stations in seven European countries from Georgia to France.

Rompetrol has more than 4 million tons of refining capacity and the capability to distribute more than 7 million tons of oil products annually through its own wholesale and retail networks. In turn, Rompetrol secures access to oil supplies.

"The price paid for the total stake in Rompetrol Group appears relatively high," said Adrian Ciocoi, Bucharest-based head of research for emerging Europe at the Riedel Research Group.

"Nevertheless, it looks like the companies seeking to get access to the refining assets in the Central and South Eastern European region are willing to pay a much higher price than it is expected by the market," Ciocoi said.

The acquisition has to be approved by the European Commission and other relevant competition authorities. Privately owned Rompetrol Holding SA will retain the remaining 25% equity stake in Rompetrol Group N.V. Dinu Patriciu has been appointed chairman and CEO of the company to secure continuity.

Fitch and S&P put Rompetrol on positive credit watch

Following news of the acquisition, Fitch Ratings placed the Rompetrol Group's long-term issuer default rating on rating watch positive on Tuesday, saying that the arrival of a higher rated strategic investor will lead to some financial restructuring of Rompetrol to improve the group's weak liquidity position and its credit ratios.

The acquisition will also strengthen Rompetrol's business profile, for example through secured long-term access to crude oil supplies from Kazakhstan, Fitch said.

Standard & Poor's also put Rompetrol Group's long-term B- corporate credit rating on credit watch with positive implications on Tuesday.

"The CreditWatch placement reflects the possibility of an upgrade of several notches as we expect that the change in ownership will provide Rompetrol Group with support from a new stronger majority owner," said Standard & Poor's credit analyst Per Karlsson in a statement.

"At this stage, however, it is unclear how extensive the support will be, bearing in mind that KMG generally finances its subsidiaries through non- recourse debt," he said. "Liquidity should, however, improve significantly, as we expect some refinancing of Rompetrol Group's large short-term debt following the ownership change."

S&P also affirmed its BBB- long-term corporate credit rating on KazMunayGas, saying it reflected the company's "close ties to the state." The rating also reflects the firm's weaknesses, such as its mature, high-cost majority-owned oil assets, high investment needs, and limited direct access to cash flows, since KazMunayGas has only minority stakes in some of the best oil assets, S&P said.


Romania Danone yogurt safe for human consumption

BUCHAREST, Aug 29 (Reuters) - Tests on yogurt made by the Romanian unit of French food giant Danone showed the product is safe for human consumption and was not contaminated with dioxin, food safety authorities said on Wednesday.

Last week, Danone recalled some batches of fruit yogurt suspected of dioxin contamination pending laboratory tests to be performed in Hungary. The move followed investigations of dioxin contamination in guar gum -- an additive used as thickener in food products -- by the European Union's food safety institutions in several member states. "Lab bulletins revealed that dioxin levels are below limits allowed by the EU regulations," the Romanian ANSV watchdog said in a statement. ANSV, which said it will lift the seizure order later in the day, said tests revealed that dioxin levels were 13 to 37 folds lower than the allowed ceiling.

U.S. General says base used by U.S. military in Romania is no threat to Russia

CONSTANTA, Romania (AP) - America's top Army general in Europe said Wednesday that U.S. use of a base in Romania posed no threat to Russia «or anybody else.

Gen. David D. McKiernan, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Europe and the 7th Army, was visiting the Mihail Kogalniceanu air base, one of three military bases in Romania that will be used by U.S. troops _ and the first to be set up by the U.S. in a former Warsaw Pact country.
U.S. use of the bases is the result of a 10-year agreement signed by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Romanian Foreign Minister Razvan Ungureanu in Dec. 2005.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has criticized the deployment of U.S. troops to Romania. Romania has cool relations with Russia.

«It is not an American base; it is a Romanian base where Romanian and American soldiers train together,» McKiernan said of the base, which is near the Black Sea. The presence of U.S troops «should not frighten anyone because they are here for training and not combat action. ... Neither the Russians nor anybody else should be worried.

Other installations covered by the agreement include Babadag in the Black Sea inland region, Cincu in the mountains of central Romania and Smardan in eastern Romania, which will be used for all types of weapons training.

There are currently 660 U.S. troops at the Mihail Kogalniceanu base.
McKiernan said the U.S. would invest US$68 million (¤49.9 million) to modernize facilities at the Mihail Kogalniceanu base in the next two years.

Romania offered the U.S. the use of the Mihail Kogalniceanu air base for the war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, with officials saying parts of the base were off-limits to Romanians.
It was identified by Human Rights Watch in 2005 as one of the possible locations where the CIA hosted secret prisons. Romania has denied the allegation.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Romanian main opposition mandates its leader to run for PM

Romania's main opposition Social Democratic Party (PSD) on Monday mandated its leader Mircea Geoana to run for the position of prime minister if the situation requires it.

"I have confirmed that, given that PSD had the best electoral results and has the most important group in Parliament, we are entitled to take part in forming a new coalition and cabinet. The candidate for the PM position is the PSD president," Geoana told a press conference at the end of an 8-hour meeting of the party's executive committee.

The central-left leader said he would vote against any right government and that "the early elections might be a solution in case the democratic negotiations for the creation of a new government fail."

The PSD, the largest opposition and also the largest party in parliament, decided earlier this month to file a censure motion on Sept. 10 at the latest.

The present government "has lost the electorate's confidence and had a poor performance in solving the fundamental problems of the Romanians," according to the PSD which is confident the motion would be passed.

Romania has been gripped by a months-long political crisis triggered by the long-running power struggle between the prime minister and the president. Basescu, who was accused of usurping the power of prime minister and violating the constitution, survived an impeachment referendum on May 19, as 74 percent of voters cast ballots against his removal from office.

In recent months, the minority government led by Prime Minister Calin Popescu-Tariceanu has lost support from the PSD.

Source: Xinhua

Politics beckon for Romanian gymnastics legend Comaneci

BUCHAREST (AFP) - It's been over 30 years since she captivated the world in Montreal, earning the first perfect 10 in Olympic gymnastics history.

But the name Nadia Comaneci continues to enchant those who remember the pony-tailed 14-year-old competing for Romania in 1976.

In demand all over the world for endorsements and charity work, Comaneci, who holds dual US and Romanian nationality, now faces a new balancing act as she is being targeted for a career in politics in her native country.

Romania's governing National Liberal Party (PNL) are looking to persuade Comaneci to go forward for them on their list of candidates for the country's first European Parliamentary elections on November 25.

The list of candidates must be lodged by September 26 at the latest. And the lure of the Comaneci name is one which all parties are keen to harnass.

Comaneci's name is being cited to head the PNL list, in place of former Minister of Foreign Affairs Mihai Razvan Ungureanu.

The US-based former gymnastics star is set to meet Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu to discuss the offer.

"I would be delighted if she (Comaneci) were to accept but at present there has been no discussions," PNL vice-president Norica Nicolai told AFP.

"We'll know more (this week) ... when our delegation meets to discuss strategy, the list and campaign team," added Nicolai.

According to the Romania Libera newspaper, Comaneci had already been courted by the Conservative Party (PC), but decided against running following poor showings by them in opinion polls.

Born in 1961 in the factory town of Onesti to a car mechanic named Gheorghe and his wife Stefania, Comaneci created Olympic history when she became the first gymnast to score a perfect 10 in a team competition at the 1976 Games.

By the time the Olympics ended, Comaneci had earned seven perfect tens, three gold medals, one bronze and one silver, and a legion of fans.

She appeared on the covers of Time, Newsweek and Sports Illustrated, all in the same week, and returned home to Romania as a heroine.

Her achievement also forced the world gymnastics federation to re-design their scoreboards.

It was the first time in modern Olympic history that the score had ever been awarded, and scoreboards were not even equipped to display scores of 10.0.

She went on to win gold in the balance beam and floor and silver at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, before retiring the following year.

But despite her star status at home, in November 1989, a few weeks before the Revolution, she defected with a group of other young Romanians, travelling overland through Hungary and Austria, before flying to the United States.

Now married to US 1984 double Olympic gymnastics champion Bart Conner, Comaneci, gave birth to her first child Dylan Paul Conner, on June 3, 2006.

Other former Romanian athletes have already dabbled in politics with former Olympics athletics champion Lia Manoliu, holding a seat in the Senate from 1990-1992, with ex-tennis star Ilie Nastase, making an unsuccessful run for major of Bucharest in 1996.

FAQ ON U.S. FORCES PRESENCE IN ROMANIA

Source: Embassy of the United States in Bucharest, Romania


Last updated: June 26, 2007

What will the presence of U.S military forces bring to Romania?
• The presence of US Army and Air Force personnel in Romania will allow American and Romanian armed forces to routinely train together and increase the interoperability of our forces,. It is our expectation and hope that the Romanian armed forces, as well as the local community, will benefit from the extensive infrastructure projects that the United States and Romania are planning at the training facilities.

How will Romanian military facilities be used by U.S. forces in Romania?
• Romanian military facilities will be used as temporary duty forward operating sites for training by U.S. military forces, primarily U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force, in close cooperation and with the permission of the Romanian government. The facilities will also support a small contingent of US soldiers and airmen, approximately 100-300 headquarters and support personnel, who will be assigned for one- to two-year tour of duties at MK Air Base.

What is Joint Task Force - East?
• Joint Task Force – East (JTF-East) is a United States European Command (USEUCOM) initiative to strengthen relationships between the United States and our Eastern European allies. All U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force training operations in Romania will fall under the command of JTF–East, which in turn is under the command of USEUCOM. Physically located in Romania and Bulgaria, JTF East will include a small permanent headquarters consisting of approximately 100-300 personnel who will oversee rotations of U.S. Army brigade-sized units and U.S. Air Force Weapons Training Deployments (WTD). Access to Romanian and Bulgarian air and ground training facilities will provide JTF-East forces the opportunity to train and interact with military forces throughout the entire 92-country USEUCOM area of responsibility. U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR) and U.S Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) are actively involved in establishing JTF-East.

How will JTF-East be utilized by the U.S. Army in Romania?
• The U.S. Army will periodically rotate Brigade Combat Teams into Romania for training.
• U.S. Army rotational units to Romania will consist of approximately 1,700 soldiers and deploy for approximately four to six months.
• Unit deployments may immediately follow one another or may be separated in time.

How will JTF-East be utilized by the U.S. Air Force in Romania?
• U.S. Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) is planning to send at least two Weapons Training Deployments (WTD) to MK Air Base each year to train in Romanian airspace.
• Size of WTDs generally run from 6-16 aircraft and 100-300 personnel.
• WTDs are typically 2-3 weeks in duration.
• USAFE is also looking at non-flying events such as medical or construction-related training deployments.

What is the legal authority for the U.S. military presence in Romania?
• U.S. force presence in Romania begins in 2007 under the authority of the Presence Agreement signed by Romania and the U.S. in December 2005 and ratified by the Romanian Parliament in June 2006.

Why did the U.S. sign the agreement?
• The agreement provides JTF-East with access to training facilities that support challenging, expeditionary training experiences with the Romanian armed forces. Other NATO, NATO-aspirant, and regional armed forces may also train at the facilities at the invitation and prior consent of Romania. JTF East provides an excellent opportunity to increase interoperability between U.S. and Romanian forces, build and sustain multinational partnerships, and prepare for future coalition operations.

What facilities will be used in Romania?
• Facilities in Romania include Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base and the former 34th Mechanized Brigade Base, Babadag and Cincu training areas, and the firing ranges in Smardan and Malina.

What will be the permanent personnel and facilities structure in Romania?
• Permanent U.S. Army forces in Romania will number approximately 100 - 300 personnel.
• Permanent U.S. Air Force forces in Romania will number approximately 10.
• Forces will be assigned to Mihail Kogalniceanu (MK) Air Base and the former 34th Mechanized Brigade Base.
• Permanent forces will include headquarters staff, administrative personnel, installation operations support, and security forces.

What will be the procedures for rotating U.S. Army and Air Force units through Romania?
• The U.S. Army will use its Global Force Management Process to select units for training deployments to Romania. These units may come from the United States, Europe, or anywhere else in the world.
• U.S. Air Forces in Europe will select units from throughout Europe for Weapons Training Deployments to Romania. Future deployments may also include forces from U.S. locations and Air National Guard/Reserve forces.

What facilities are planned for U.S. Army use?
• The U.S. Army plans to construct billeting, unit operations, maintenance support, and recreation facilities on the former 34th Mechanized Brigade Base to support and house approximately 1,700 soldiers.
• At the Babadag Training Area (BTA), the U.S. Army plans to construct accommodations to support approximately 150 soldiers; for U.S. and Romanian joint use.

What facilities are planned for U.S. Air Force use?
• The U.S. Air Force is planning to establish an Air Base Squadron at MK Air Base by April 2008, initially manned by 5-10 personnel.
• USAFE is incrementally upgrading MK Air Base facilities and infrastructure to support weapons training deployments.
• Minor runway and taxiway repairs were completed in early 2006.
• Recently completed construction of an Aerospace Ground Equipment maintenance building and a new fire station.
• Various other facility and infrastructure improvements are under review

What business opportunities do the facilities create for Romanians?
• U.S. forces will enter into support contracts to maintain the facilities and provide services to both the rotational units and permanent party personnel on which local bidders may compete. The U.S. Embassy will work with USEUCOM and its component commands to develop service and support contracts.
• U.S. contracting officers will use the Federal Acquisition Regulations to determine procedures to be followed in each acquisition.

How will contractors and vendors be notified and selected?
• Typically, vendors will be able to get notification of a proposed contract through a public posting of the requirement on the web page: www.fedbizopps.gov.
• Vendors will be selected through a competitive and open process.
• Construction contractors are selected based on a formal process that evaluates a variety of factors, such as their design proposal, cost experience with large projects, and their experience in Romania.
• Other contractors, such as those who provide support to the rotational U.S. forces will undergo a similar process, depending on the type of support they will provide.
• Example: It is planned that military construction at the former 34th Mechanized Brigade Base will amount to approximately $35 million in Fiscal Year 2007.

Where can interested persons get more information about business opportunities related to the military facilities?
• Those interested can find more information on the web page of the U.S. Commercial Service in Romania, see: http://bucharest.usembassy.gov/Embassy/Commercial_Service/index.html.
• The U.S. government recently completed a training program for potential bidders in Bucharest and a site visit for potential bidders in January 2007.
• Note that private firms that claim to have “insider information” on the contracting process for a fee are not approved by the U.S. government.

What upcoming activities are planned?
Spring through Fall 2007:
• USAFE will conduct exercise CARPATHIAN SUMMER at MK in July, a C-130 training deployment of 2 - 3 aircraft and approximately 150 personnel. Additional, joint and combined training events are currently under review by exercise planners.
• USAFE has established a 5-person planning detachment in Bucharest that will be fully staffed by the end of July. This office will consist of a detachment leader and liaisons for contracting, airspace/range/airfield management, civil engineering, and force protection.
• USAREUR’s JTF-E Proof-of-Principle (PoP) demonstration is planned for August through October 2007 to test the facility before regular rotations start. A force of approximately 900 soldiers and civilians from USAREUR, Southern European Task Force (SETAF) and Task Force 194 is planned. During this operation, a battalion task force will conduct training operations with Romanian and Bulgarian forces in both countries. The JTF-East headquarters, with U.S., Romanian and Bulgarian soldiers, will exercise command and control of the training events from Romania.
• USAREUR’s plans to set up temporary billeting, unit operations, and logistical facilities within the JTF-E headquarters area of MK Air Base to support the PoP are well underway and will be completed prior to troop arrival in mid August.

Last updated: June 26, 2007

Added by Lucian Crusoveanu, June 26, 2007

Community leaders in Romania take action against human trafficking

Source: World Vision Middle East/Eastern Europe office (MEERO)

Community leaders from five communes in Iasi County, northeastern Romania, joined World Vision staff for a two-day meeting in Iasi Area Development Program (ADP) to discuss the issue and prevalence of human trafficking and explore the integration of anti trafficking initiatives into the ADP's development work based on community and World Vision staff capacity.

'I am glad that we joined as representatives of our communities to prevent human trafficking. As teachers, parents and leaders of our communities, we are responsible for the safety and well being of our community and our children. It is up to us to take into account everything that we learned here and make sure these horrible things don't happen to the members of our communities,' said a community member. 'The secret is working together with the local authorities and creating a network of dedicated and responsible people.'

'We took time to discuss and analyze risk factors and identify vulnerable groups in each of our communities - an important step in understanding the problem and in figuring out what we need to do next. We knew that people, especially young adults, are leaving to work abroad but I think that we never seriously understood the risks involved,' said a participant.

'Community awareness of the trafficking phenomenon and their ownership of a response to the issue is exactly the result we hope to see at a grassroots level. By understanding what factors put people at risk, communities like Iasi are positioning themselves to address trafficking where its influence on the community starts,' said Matthew Stephens, regional anti-trafficking coordinator.

As part of the ATAC (Anti-Trafficking Action Committee), an anti-trafficking initiative in the Middle East and Eastern Europe Region, World Vision has assessed three counties in Romania that are vulnerable to human trafficking and is identifying local capacity to develop a pilot project to combat human trafficking.

Survey results showed an association between the risk of trafficking and migration. In Iasi County, poor rural areas appear to be most at risk of trafficking to due lack of economic opportunity.

Children with at least one parent working abroad are considered at risk by the local authorities. These children fall victim to trafficking more easily due to neglect and weakened family relationships. Young men and women who leave foster care centres are also at risk, as many of them are unprepared to live independently and have not been taught how to make wise decisions.

Teenagers coming from vocational schools are in danger of being trafficked. The majority of these students has a lower level of education and comes from families with little to no economic opportunity. With few life prospects, they commonly seek work abroad, which puts them at risk of being trafficked.

World Vision is partnering with both communities and other NGO's in its anti-trafficking efforts. The organization is pursuing a regional and gender integrated approach because trafficking is a transnational problem that requires an international and gender focused solution.

Human trafficking is a major human rights violation that is gathering increasing attention both at a local and international level. The phenomenon has profound social and economical implications, affecting many countries and persons. Each year, an estimated 600,000 to 2,000,000 persons become victims of trafficking, with up to 50% of the victims being children.

According to a report issued by the US State Department, over 800,000 persons are trafficked across national borders each year. Eighty per cent of them are women and 70% are trafficked for sexual exploitation. Still, these are just official estimates; the real number of victims cannot be determined as most victims do not or cannot come forward.

Romania is considered to be a source and also a transit county for victims of trafficking networks.

Romania: The New Call for Investors

MANCHESTER, England, August 28 /PRNewswire/ -- Says Pelle Langli, chief executive of Emerging Real Estate - one of the UK's leading emerging property investment consultancies - and agent for Basarabia Boulevard, a luxury investment opportunity in Bucharest.

Over the last 18 years, there's no doubting Romania has worked hard to shed its Ceausescu past. The whole country, led by its buoyant economy, is on the way up, but what is driving the property market and what are the options for potential investors?

Firstly, current demand heavily outweighs supply. There are over two million Romanians living in Bucharest, yet last year just 8,800 homes were built across all sectors and for all demographics. City planners and the National Housing Authority believe there is a need for some 200,000 extra homes specifically for the emerging middle classes.

Statistics show that there are now 100,000 Bucharest residents considered to be in the middle class bracket. This new social sphere is becoming ever larger and more powerful as international corporations such as KPMG, Orange, Oracle, Toyota, IBM, Alpha Bank and ING Bank open offices in the city. This type of foreign and large scale commercial investment has brought, and will continue to bring, re-generation, employment and increased wealth to the local population who are renowned for enjoying luxury goods and prestige sports cars.

In January 2007, Romania joined the European Union (EU) which prompted the kind of investment that had never been seen before. EU development funds are now pouring into the country to improve the general infrastructure and large scale private investment is attracted by the cheap labour market and the availability of hard working locals. According to the CIA Factbook, Romania now tops the table when it comes to growth in the emerging markets of Europe with 2004 seeing GDP at 8.5%, 2005 at 6% and 2006 at 7.7%.

After the revolution in 1989 and the fall of Ceaucescu, every Romanian citizen was given their home. This means that 89% of the population now owns their home without a mortgage, so they are equity rich and not afraid to spend it on more modern and luxurious properties - even though the Romanian mortgage market in is still in its infancy. There are also a lot of young Romanians who are taking advantage of this lending and are now getting on the property ladder ensuring a new wave of property owners are coming on stream. Mortgages have only been available since 2003 and account for only 1% of GDP compared to 49% in the UK, which leaves a huge potential for growth.

At the present time, foreign nationals are forbidden to directly own real estate in Romania. However, a Romanian company may own property even if that company is 100% owned by a foreign national. The process for creating these companies is not difficult for investors if a credible law firm is instructed to set up a limited company based in Romania.

There is an added bonus in that these companies will be exempt from the VAT that private individuals must pay - this currently stands at 16%. In most instances, the deposit is set at an amount equal to 20% of the overall purchase price of the property. Associated expenses, such as lawyers' fees, notary costs and state taxes will account for at least an extra 5% of the original purchase price.

One key investor opportunity is Basarabia Boulevard - situated in a popular city centre suburb of Bucharest. The development will comprise of 850 studios, one and two bedroom high specification apartments and has a selection of incentives designed specifically for the investor market with prices starting at GBP57,478.

Only 25% of the property is being released before construction begins in September 2007 and the other 75% will be sold to the local population when the project is completed in September 2009.

Pelle Langli, chief executive office of Emerging Real Estate, commented; 'Romania is quickly gaining recognition as one of the world's most exciting investment hot spots. For Basarabia Boulevard, we've worked hard to formulate an attractive payment plan of 20% on contract and 80% on completion, two years later. This offers investors two options; either to 're-sell' the assignable contract to another buyer and release a short term profit or, to complete the investment with 80% loan to value funding. This will allow an immediate release of equity following the expected capital growth over the two year build period. The developer will manage both these exit strategies as it will have sales and lettings agents based in Bucharest.'

Emerging Real Estate's Reasons to invest in Romania:

- Bucharest's economy is now expanding rapidly and is expected to have achieved over 9% GDP growth in 2006, making it Europe's fastest growing city economy (Source: BSL Experian, EIU, October 2006)

- Unemployment was estimated at 6.1% for Romania as a whole for 2006 (CIA Factbook)

- EU Accession has created considerable momentum for international business and has stimulated a significant upswing in Foreign Direct Investment which is forecast to continue for the remainder of the decade. (Jones Lang LaSalle)

- The population of Bucharest has a high disposable income relative to total incomes.

- There are over two million Romanians living in Bucharest and last year only 8,800 new homes were built across all sectors and demographics. City planners believe there is a need for 200,000 extra homes specifically for the emerging middle classes. (National Housing Authority, Romania 2006)

- The developers of Basarabia Boulevard, RI Investment Group, have delivered some of the largest investment projects in Romania.

- Capital growth in the residential sector of Bucharest is expected to increase by 20% to 30% in 2007 according to Channel4.com.

- Local demand among the emerging middle classes is currently high - Colliers International predicts "the middle income segment of the Bucharest market is entering its long expected boom."

- Unrivalled Foreign Direct Investment - Romania received nearly $11 billion USD in 2005. Romania attracts huge investment due to the cheap labour market and the availability of hard working locals.

- Large corporations already have a presence in the city including KPMG, Orange, Oracle, Toyota, IBM, Alpha Bank and ING Bank. This type of foreign investment brings employment and increased wealth to the local population, increasing salaries and the spending power of the locals.

S Korea To Seek Participation In Romanian Nuclear Power Projs

SEOUL -(Dow Jones)- South Korea will ask Romania to allow Korean companies to participate in two nuclear power plant projects worth EUR2.2 billion ($3 billion), that will be built in the eastern European country by 2008, the government said Tuesday.

A mission led by Oh Young-Ho, vice minister of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy, or Mocie, will visit Romania and Hungary from Aug. 30 to Sept. 4 to promote economic cooperation with the countries, the ministry said in a statement.

"If we take part in the nuclear plant project in Romania, we will be able to secure a bridgehead in the nuclear power plant business in Europe," said Lee Chae-Won, deputy director of Mocie's Europe & Americas Division.

The Romanian government is now seeking business partners to build the two nuclear facilities in Cernavoda, said the ministry.

Meanwhile in Hungary, Mocie, Korean Agency for Technology and Standards, and Korea Export Insurance Corp. will sign memorandum of understandings with their counterparts for broad-based economic exchanges, she said.

-By Kyong-Ae Choi, Dow Jones Newswires; 822-732-2165; kyong-ae.choi@ dowjones.com


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Drought & Heat Severely Impact Grains Production In Romania

Source: cattlenetwork.com

According to official authorities harvested wheat reached only 3 MMT (55% of 2006 production), barley output reached 0.5 MMT (65% of 2006 production), while corn and sunflower will barely reach one third of last year’s production, which means 3 MMT versus 8.5 million last year for corn, respectively 0.5 million versus 1.4 million MT for sunflower.

The extremely mild and dry winter as well as lack of precipitation in the spring generated a high water soil deficit leading to inadequate plant development and low yields. Wheat production reached 3 MMT on 1.85 million HA cultivated in fall 2006 (1.6 MT/HA). Reportedly, wheat quality is good.

The extended drought and heat in June and July severely affected corn, which is estimated to reach only 3 million MT on 2.5 million HA (1.2 MT/HA). The current estimates for sunflower indicate a production of about 500,000 MT on 0,875 million HA cultivated in spring (0.6 MT/HA). The acreage cultivated with rapeseed in the fall (four times higher than the previous year) generated an output 35% lower than expected, reaching only 365,000 MT versus 550,000 MT.

The feeding industry and consequently livestock sector are already facing difficulties in securing grains for animal feeds, as there are insufficient supplies and at higher prices. Farmers started corn harvesting early for further processing into animal feeding.

Domestic Support

Following this severe drought, the Romanian Government approved a Decision declaring areas affected by drought as disaster areas. The decision laid down the level of compensations for farmers whose areas were affected by drought, for both fall and spring crops. According to it, only areas affected in a proportion higher than 30% of production were eligible for compensations and the level of compensation does not exceed 70% of expenses incurred before the drought. The specific levels of compensations were approximately USD 310/HA for wheat, rye and triticale, USD 290/HA for barley and two-row barley and USD 250/HA for rapeseeds.

In addition, the GOR doubled subsidies for irrigation, from USD 155/HA to USD 280/HA. The subsidy represents roughly 70% of the total irrigation cost and the budgetary outlays will reach about USD115 million. The current irrigable surface in Romania, with the infrastructure in place, is 717,000 HA, but this year only half of it was covered by contracts between farmers and water suppliers, with only 10% (35,000 HA) being actually irrigated.

The measure to increase subsidies was aimed to encourage farmers to use the irrigation system, but as many areas did not have access to water sources or equipment was unaffordable to farmers, the results of this support were lower than expectations. Moreover, given the development stage of fall crops, no significant recovery occurred, as the plants were already dried up. These measures did not help much even the spring crops.

According to Ministry of Agriculture, about 1.7 million HA have been affected by drought, but only 720,000 HA would be eligible for compensations, that is 488,000 HA of wheat, 47,000 HA of barley and two-row barley, 175,000 of rapeseeds and 10,000 HA of spring two-row barley. In terms of insurance level, the authorities report that only 34% of the area planted last fall is covered by insurance (0.962 million HA out of 2,8 million HA).

Very recently, the Romanian Government supplemented the farmers’ support necessary to cover expenses related to this fall crops. They reach about USD 205/HA for wheat, USD 165/HA for rapeseeds and USD 185/HA for any other crop.

Trade

Considering the current harvested wheat crop of 3 million MT, we expect imports to reach 1.1 million MT by the end of MY 07/08. Traders already sourced some wheat from Serbia, before the Serbian export ban was enforced. Currently the wheat is purchased on the local market at prices between 280 – 290 USD/MT (680-700 RON/MT), 20-25% higher than a month before, when wheat was harvested. Last year, for comparison, the wheat was available at $100-115/MT, almost a third of this year’s quotation. Millers are in need of durum wheat, but a price of 350-360 USD/MT is considered unaffordable.

Given the current U.S. wheat quotations, shipment costs, duties and handling costs, wheat would be available in Constanta port at 350 USD/MT, higher than the local market price. However, as internal wheat stocks will be depleted and the regional availability is limited, new sources for wheat/wheat flour should be identified.

Corn production is estimated to reach a historically low level of 3 million MT. Consequently maize imports sourced from Brazil are ongoing and they count a quarter of a million MT already. Brazilian corn is available at prices around 315 USD/MT, three times higher than last year‘s price. Normally corn would be sourced, if needed, from neighboring countries, but this year the exportable surplus in the region is lower.

Romania has been a net exporter of sunflower seeds, with an exportable amount of about half a million a year. As this year the whole production is expected to be around this figure, the domestic processing-industry needs will only partially be covered. The deficit will be later ensured by crude oil imports, although at much higher prices.

Research Study regarding weather effects on plants

A study prepared by researchers at the Academy for Agricultural and Forestry Sciences concerning the vegetation stage revealed the effects of severe drought on winter and spring crops back in May 2007.

The main feature of the last winter was the rainfall deficit, down by 50-100 mm compared to the multi-year average rainfall. Precipitation during March alleviated the soil moisture deficit, allowing for a relatively normal development of winter crops. Nevertheless, the water deficit deepened further during April and May, given the high water demand of plants in that stage of development, evaporation by wind, but especially lack of precipitation. Low soil moisture has been reflected in non-uniform and delayed spring crops germination.

The following pictures provided by International Production Assessment Branch of FAS/USDA are very relevant for a description of the weather conditions during late July and August in Romania.